As a Lopez Island property owner (in the Mud Bay area) I’m writing to register my opposition to the Land Bank’s (LB) intention to acquire the Clure property on the western shoreline of Lopez Island. My opposition is based upon several issues, most notably (1) the poor rights and potential routes of access into the subject property from the public road near the airport, (2) the poor to non-existent rights and potential routes of potential movement of the public across the very narrow beach area at the bottom of the bluff, (3) the unfavorable impact of the foregoing situations on the future condition of private and public lands at the beach interface, and (4) the awkward history of the subject property itself.
Regarding my points (1) and (2), the proposed acquisition of the Clure property is not a stand-alone acquisition of a piece of land with its own environmental uniqueness. It has apparently been proposed for acquisition in order to provide public access to the beach below the bluff. However, legal research into the status of easements from the public road into the property indicates that legal access is precarious at best. And further access from the property down to the bottom of the bluff is also precarious, and even more so when it comes to potential legal movement north or south along the base of the bluff. Down below, it now appears that human movement is not possible (under most all tidal conditions) over the actual public land and would require considerable regular trespassing across private ownerships.
The long history of the Clure property on the market, due to its poor access rights and overpricing, is itself problematic. It seems unfair and unreasonable for property owners who have been unable to sell their property to collaborate with their real estate agent and with county officials to get the public to acquire such a problematic property. As such, the relationships between these parties seem to be a conflict of interest with the public good. I also feel that communication with the public in advance of the subject proposal has not been adequate, nor particularly transparent as to what is really going on here.
Finally I would like to suggest that San Juan County citizens and government officials should consider re-evaluating the present and future role of the Land Bank, in light of the example that the subject case seems to offer in terms of difficulties and limitations of land acquisition, waterfront in particular. Perhaps there are still some appropriate upland pieces of land, contiguous to other public holdings, that would be useful additions to LB holdings. But it seems to me that in general we are already blessed with a good and sufficient array of reasonably accessible public lands; what we have seems to be more than our county is able to monitor and manage, which I realize is a result of lack of funds allocated for maintenance and improvement. SJC has been in the rare and enviable position of having a Land Bank law, and it has served us well. But perhaps it’s time to reduce the role of the LB in future acquisitions; and rather to focus on maintenance and management of existing public lands. Have we acquired enough? If only properties such as the subject Clure property are available now and in the foreseeable future, then perhaps it’s time to conclude the acquisition phase, and focus on improving the quality of the experiences available on existing public lands.
I would appreciate the opportunity to speak with you personally about my criticisms and the issues I’ve raised. Please call me at 206 719 1576. I am also willing to call you, if you could please provide a time and number at which you are available for discussion.
George J. Kenagy